After Martin Luther King Jr. won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, plans for an interracial celebration in still-segregated Atlanta were not initially well supported by the city’s business elite until J. Paul Austin intervened. In his memoir, activist and former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young wrote:
J. Paul Austin, the chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola, and Mayor Ivan Allen summoned key Atlanta business leaders to the Commerce Club’s eighteenth floor dining room, where Austin told them flatly, “It is embarrassing for Coca-Cola to be located in a city that refuses to honor its Nobel Prize winner. We are an international business. The Coca-Cola Co. does not need Atlanta. You all need to decide whether Atlanta needs the Coca-Cola Co.” Within two hours of the end of that meeting, every ticket to the dinner was sold.
Coretta Scott King thought of Austin as a good friend. Austin was the first recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change’s award for corporate social responsibility. Three years later in 1977 Austin and Mrs. King were awarded the annual Man of Conscience award of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation.
How cool is that?